HSBC International Transfers (Fully Explained)

Guide icon
January 9, 2024
5 min read
If you’re an existing HSBC customer, using your bank for your international transfers can sometimes be the most obvious option. But is it the best one?

You probably use them all the time for your day to day banking.

But does this necessarily mean that you should use them for an international money transfer?

In this guide, I’ll explain everything you need to know about HSBC international transfers, including how much they cost and how long they take.

I’ll untangle the details HSBC doesn't tell you, give you some helpful alternatives, and ultimately, help make your international transfer easier.

HSBC headquarters
Is HSBC a good option for your international transfer?

Does HSBC charge for international transfers?

There are charges and fees for using HSBC for international money transfers.

Costs from HSBC for international transfers come in two forms:

  1. Transfer fees
  2. Exchange rates

HSBC Transfer Fees

Transfer fees are flat fees that you pay every time you make an international transfer.

Here are the transfer fees charged by HSBC:

Phone / In branch Mobile app / Online
Within Europe Free Free
Outside Europe £5 Free

As far as big banks go, HSBC’s transfer fees aren’t bad at all.

Just like most other banks, HSBC wants you to process your transfer via your online banking or mobile banking app (that’s why they make it free).

But if you’d prefer to speak to a real person (and I don’t blame you), paying £5 is not bad when compared to other banks.

However, the important point is that all transfer fees are totally unnecessary.

There are many currency brokers out there who don’t charge any transfer fees, regardless of whether you make the payment online or over the phone.

And as I’ll explain, the biggest costs, by far, come from the exchange rates.

Don’t be enticed by small transfer fees. 

The exchange rate is where you need to pay close attention.

HSBC Exchange Rates

The biggest cost to any international money transfer comes from the exchange rate.

This is because you are charged a percentage of the total amount you are transferring.

HSBC usually charges between 1.5% and 3% of your total transfer amount.

This is incorporated into the exchange rates they provide, and is called the “margin”.

Let me show you how this works:

If you were transferring £100,000 into Euros for example, a 3% margin would mean that your transfer costs you £3,000.

Safe to say that’s a huge cost!

HSBC has an exchange rate calculator for when you want to order travel money.

However, no such thing exists for when you want to make an international transfer to a bank account. 

When you want to send money to a bank, you only find out the exchange rate at the very last minute, once you’ve gone through the bother of setting up the transfer. 

HSBC would prefer you didn’t compare the rate and just accepted whatever you’re presented by them, having already gone through a fair bit of effort.

How long does it take for HSBC to transfer money internationally?

The length of time that your international money transfer will take depends on where you’re sending money to and from.

If your HSBC international money transfer is between the UK and Europe, it will usually take between 1 and 2 working days.

If you’re transferring money outside of Europe with HSBC, it should take no more than 5 working days.

In my experience, international money transfers are normally relatively quick.

But there can sometimes be delays due to clearing times at the banks that send and receive the money

Intermediary banks that may be involved too.

Public holidays in other countries can sometimes cause unexpected hold-ups as well.

I’d always advise factoring plenty of waiting time into your plans so that everything runs smoothly and you’re not caught out by any delays.

Can you make international transfers from the HSBC app?

The HSBC online banking app is often a great option for sending money to friends and family in the UK. 

You can send up to £50,000 overseas through the HSBC mobile banking app, which is more than the majority of other UK banks.

However, this doesn’t mean you should use it for international money transfers.

The HSBC online banking app still subjects you to large exchange rate costs.

For domestic money transfers, the HSBC online banking app is great because it makes things quick and easy.

This is great for day-to-day banking when everything is straightforward.

But international money transfers are not straightforward.

International money transfers are complex and defy our modern expectations to do everything through our smartphone.

You can use the online app. But should you?

I’d advise against using an online app to make your international money transfer.

When you’re dealing with large amounts of money (where some providers have the potential to cost thousands), it’s best to take your time.

Whichever company you choose to use, I’d want to speak to someone over the phone.

Not only would I want to make sure I wasn’t being charged an extortionate exchange rate, quite simply, I’d want to make sure the money was being sent to the correct bank account!

For large international money transfers, I would recommend using a currency broker where you can get a good exchange rate and get expert guidance on completing the transfer.

The HSBC online banking app also has a limit of £50,000 per transfer.

This is a huge inconvenience when you need to send larger amounts.

It’s just another indication that the HSBC online app is not designed for large international transfers.

Man holding phone
The HSBC app might expose you to higher costs

How do HSBC international transfer fees compare to other providers?

HSBC and other high street banks typically have high exchange rate costs when compared with other providers like currency brokers.

Compared to other banks, overall costs from HSBC are relatively good, but they are generally much higher than using a currency broker.

The exchange rate margin is what’s most important.

From my research, HSBC is one of the better banks out there when it comes to exchange rate offerings.

For example, Barclays international transfers are priced at around 3% - 4%. 

HSBC's exchange rate calculator is only available for HSBC Hong Kong. I haven't seen one for the UK.

I would still always double check your exchange rate when you come to make the international money transfer.

Comparing with other providers (more notably, currency brokers) will help you get the best rate out there.

Currency brokers typically offer much better exchange rates for international transfers.

Not only that, a currency broker will provide you with an expert account manager who can guide you on the finer details of your transfer.

HSBC international transfer limits

HSBC’s transfer limits are one of the most annoying things I found with their international transfer service.

Alongside their £50,000 online transfer limit for international transfers, there’s an even smaller £10,000 limit for arranging transfers over the phone.

Limits like this can make meeting deadlines (such as a foreign property purchase) very difficult.

It means having to break the transfer down into multiple chunks. 

Potentially adding unnecessary fees and achieving a worse FX rate on smaller payments.

For me personally, it’s a deal breaker.

To increase that limit to £10 million, you need to be a HSBC Premier customer.

To become a HSBC Premier customer you’ll need to discuss opening a Premier account in branch or over the phone and also meet eligibility criteria.

That’s a lot of faff.

It would be much easier to create an account with a currency broker where you’ll get better guidance and exchange rates, with no transfer limits.

HSBC branch
HSBC's transfer limits can be frustrating

HSBC launches Zing

Recently, HSBC rolled out Zing, their fresh take on a mobile money transfer app, aiming to rival big players like fintech company Wise

Just like its fellow fintechs, Zing operates as an Electronic Money Institution (EMI), rather than functioning as a full-scale bank. 

This setup means your funds aren't covered under the FSCS, but they are "safeguarded" following EMI regulations.

When it comes to costs, Zing's markups vary from 0.60% to 1% depending on the currency you're transferring. 

This is a noticeable improvement over HSBC's usual rates, but it's still pricier compared to other money transfer apps. 

There's also an annoying £40,000 cap on how much you can send through Zing.

It’s early days for HSBC’s new product and time will tell how it lands with users.

Zing ( homepage

Is HSBC a good option for international money transfers?

When compared to other UK banks, HSBC is a cost-effective option for international money transfers.

Overall, HSBC is expensive and inefficient for international money transfers because they have high exchange rate costs and inconvenient transfer limits.

Our recommendation is to use a currency broker.

Typically, a currency broker offers much better exchange rates and an all-round better service.

You will receive the guidance of a personal currency exchange expert who can help guide you through the transfer.

That way, you can be confident you’re saving money and relax knowing that the details of your transfer are taken care of.

That way, not only can you be confident of saving money, you can relax knowing that your transfer is in the safe hands of a specialist.

To get you started, TopMoneyCompare’s #1 rated currency broker is Key Currency.

Compare and save on your money transfer


You may also like...

Guide image
Money TransfersHow to Transfer Large Amounts of Money Internationally
Discover the best method to transfer large amounts internationally with my step-by-step guide.
Guide image
Money Transfer CompaniesTop 10 International Money Transfer Companies
Here's my top 10 international money transfer companies, complete with some good advice and best practises.
Guide image
Money Transfer CompaniesBest Currency Brokers in 2024
I ranked the best currency brokers from 1 to 5. See who comes out on top.
By clicking “Accept”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts. View our Privacy Policy for more information.